Billie Jean King

November 10, 2012
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“I knew after my first lesson what I wanted to do with my life,” tennis superstar, Billie Jean King, once said. Billie Jean King was perhaps one of the most important female tennis players ever, and not only because she was a phenomenal athlete. Without Billie Jean King, many women’s sports, including tennis, may not exist today. Throughout her career, King accomplished so much for the sport of tennis, and for the rights and perception of women in sports. Billie Jean King enhanced the American Dream for all women and athletes by proving that men and women deserve equal rights, in daily life and in tennis.
On September 20, 1973, Billie Jean King played Bobby Riggs in one of the most important tennis matches of all time. It was called “the Battle of the Sexes.” The Battle of the Sexes captivated 90 million worldwide viewers and 50 million viewers nationally. People who didn’t even care about tennis were talking about this match. It offered a perfect distraction from the Vietnam War, and got tons of people exited (Battle of the Sexes, Wikipedia)! King hoped to beat Riggs in order to prove that women’s tennis is not a joke. King knew that a win over Riggs would raise all women’s self-esteem, and that a loss would set women’s tennis 50 years back (Schwartz). She certainly did not want to let women down. Even though King was not favored to win, she was determined to win to prove that a woman is just as strong as a man. In order to play Riggs, King changed her normal aggressive game to a style of play focusing on the baseline. She played with heart and passion, knowing that so much was on the line. She ended up beating Bobby Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 (Battle of the Sexes, Wikipedia). She proved that female athletes can indeed beat male athletes, and that women’s tennis should be taken seriously. This affected the American Dream because by winning the battle of the sexes, Billie Jean King proved that women deserve to be treated the same as men. After all, women can beat them in what many men take pride in, sports! Billie Jean King showed great determination during the Battle of the Sexes, and during her tennis career.
Billie Jean King is one of the best tennis players of all time. In 1954, Billie Jean King began playing tennis at a young age. She played on the local courts in Long Beach, California. She was a pudgy child with big glasses and a dream of playing tennis. She practiced all the time, day in and day out, as a kid with her coach, Clyde Walker (Littlefield). Billie Jean King’s hard work as a kid paid off. In 1968, she went professional (King, Billie Jean). She defeated amazing tennis legends such as Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, and Margaret Court. She won 39 grand slam titles and 20 Wimbledon titles (Schwartz). Even the great tennis players today, such as Serena Williams, have not beaten this. Although King dominated women’s tennis in the 60’s and 70’s, her hard work did not come easy (Billie Jean King Biography, King had to push through problems such as asthma, allergies, and knee problems (Littlefield) in order to be #1 in the world for 3 straight years (Schwartz). Billie Jean King showed great determination to rise to the top. This impacted the American Dream for women because she showed Americans that if you work hard, you can be or do anything that you would like to, which in my opinion, sums up the entire American Dream. Some people might believe that Billie Jean King does not deserve a memorial built for her because she was an athlete, and if King gets a memorial built, then why shouldn’t all athletes have similar memorials? Well, Billie Jean King was not only a superb athlete, but she fought for the rights of women, and was a big role model for women.
In the 60’s and 70’s women needed hope. They were beginning to gain more rights and needed a leader to look up to. King was one of these leaders. Billie Jean King was a feminist icon. She fought for women’s rights on and off the court. Her voice was loudest in the fight for equality in tennis (Schwartz). She also helped start many programs to benefit women’s tennis. She helped to create a women’s tennis tour called the Virginia Slims (Billie Jean King Biography, In addition, King was the founder and first president of the Women’s Tennis Association and she also helped to create a women’s sports magazine (King, Billie Jean). She changed women’s tennis forever, therefore, impacting the American Dream for all female tennis players by giving them a better tennis future. In 1971, King became the first female athlete to make 100,000$ in one year. President Nixon congratulated her for this (Schwartz). After being the first female athlete to earn 100,000 in one year king said that it would “show the world that women can earn a good living in sports. It’ll open up more avenues for women in other sports.” Opening up more opportunities for women in sports is one of the many things that King did to enhance the American Dream, and make women really admire her. King was named one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century. She was one of four athletes on this list, and she was the only female athlete on it. (Schwartz) Some people might think that there are more significant feminist icons than Billie Jean King. I think that they are wrong. In 1975, King was named the most admired woman in the world according to a poll by Seventeen magazine. (Schwartz) Surely, if she was the most admired woman in the world, then she was the top feminist icon in the 70’s. As you can see, King was a tremendous role model for women. She gave women hope in a time when they needed it most. She changed the American Dream for all women by showing them that they deserve to be treated equally, and by fighting for their rights.
Billie Jean King impacted the American Dream greatly in a country torn by the Vietnam War. She gave women hope in a time when they needed most, she proved that determination and hard work pays off, she impacted the history of sports, and proved that men and women should be treated equally. Billie Jean King impacted the World, the country, and she directly impacted me. Right now, I play tennis, and I love it! I am a girl, but I am treated equally to the boys in my age group. This might not have been this way if it wasn’t for Billie Jean King! Thanks to Billie Jean King, if I want to pursue a tennis career, I would be able to play in tournaments where males and females receive fairly equal prize money.

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